Largemouth bass, walleye, marlin…we all have our favorite species to catch, but some of us may get a little tired of catching the same old species. If you’re looking to catch the fish of a lifetime that no one amongst your friends has likely never even seen before, then here’s your wish list. If you’re up for some travel and adventure, here are the locations for where to catch the rarest and most mystical fish in the world.
Goliath Tigerfish – Congo River Basin, Africa
Tigerfish are found throughout the African continent, but the largest species, goliath, mostly reside in the Congo River. They are a famed gamefish, primarily because of their incredible fighting spirit, size (up to 5 feet in length), and huge, sharp teeth that put muskies to shame. The goliath tigerfish has the mystical reputation of being fierce not only for its appearance, but for its downright nasty attitude. There are numerous reports of these fish attacking humans, and with the teeth that they have, you can bet the resulting injuries must have been pretty nasty. Fish with caution!
Arapaima – Amazon River
Meet the arapaima, a living fossil and one of the biggest freshwater fishes in the world, growing to lengths of over 8 feet. Commercial overfishing in Brazil has nearly wiped out the species, but conservation efforts have been able to stabilize the population for the time being, allowing controlled catch-and-release fishing for lucky anglers who choose to give it a try. Arapaima also have a bad reputation, being dubbed a “dragon fish” by locals. This is primarily due to its size, but also because they come up to the air to breathe, providing a rare glimpse for those fortunate enough to see it before the fish retreats to the murky depths of the Amazon.
Arapaima aren’t the only prehistoric fish still alive today!
While the dinosaurs are long extinct, the same cannot be said for some species that lurked beneath the ocean depths. In honor of those fish species that can keep on, keepin’ on, here are the top 10 most amazing prehistoric fish still alive today.
Palomino Trout – Mahoning Creek, Pennsylvania
The Californian golden trout is rare enough to make this list, but it’s beat out by the palomino, an incredibly rare form of rainbow trout that happen to have a golden color variant. Also called golden rainbow trout, palomino can be found in scattered locations across the States, but the Eastern seaboard holds the largest population. Mahoning Creek, Pennsylvania houses the largest of this fish, with some growing as heavy as 13 pounds. Catching a palomino trout is quite rare, so if you choose to head to Pennsylvania expecting instant results, you will be disappointed.
Freshwater Sawfish – Indo-Pacific Ocean, Northern Australia
Freshwater sawfish actually spend most of their time in the ocean, but many do swim up rivers and streams. They can reach 20 feet in length and weigh over 400 pounds while their snout (which are really just rows of teeth) can grow as long as a few feet – no surprise then why they are a popular fish among anglers. Too popular, really, as the fish is now critically endangered, so if you do go after these fish, be sure to consult local regulations to ensure it is legal to fish for in the area and always release your catch unharmed.
Golden Dorado – Rio de la Plata Basin, South America
The golden dorado is not actually a species of dorado at all; and despite its Latin name, Salminus maxillosus, it is not actually a member of the salmon family either. No, the golden dorado is its own species of fish, but one thing’s for sure, the delicious flesh is on par with the best tasting dorados and salmon in the world. Unfortunately, the golden dorado has been overfished because of its tasty flesh, making this fish quite uncommon a catch even in the heaviest pockets in South America. If you manage to find the right honeyhole, you could find yourself with a fish anywhere between 5-30 pounds, and even as heavy as 60 if you’re lucky. Be forewarned: this fish is banned from fishing in certain countries due to its dwindling population, like Paraguay.
Mekong Giant Catfish – Mekong River, Thailand
If you think a big channel or flathead cat can give you a great fight, just wait until you try one of these giants from the Mekong River! The Mekong giant catfish is the largest freshwater fish in the world, reaching well over 600 pounds. Found only in the lower half of the Mekong River, this giant beast of a fish is critically endangered and, sadly, though it is illegal to harvest, there is not enough enforcement to stop it from happening. In Thailand, there are series of lakes and river systems where anglers can go and fish private stocks.
Papuan Black Bass – Papau New Guinea
Some of the most under-fished waters in the world surround Papau New Guinea, which is a shame considering there’s some really good fishing to be had here. Tops among them are the Papaun black bass, a tough fish for even the most hardcore bass anglers. They are terrific fighters, strong enough to make you feel like you’re being pulled in, which wouldn’t be so good considering they live in croc-infested waters. These bass are found only here and are largely considered one of the best freshwater fighting fish on the planet.
Giant Devil Catfish – Great Kali River, India
It’s actually called a goonch catfish, but its popular nickname seems more fitting for a fish much reviled by inhabitants along the Kali River. The giant devil catfish has been known to attack humans and has even been charged with the death of an 18-year-old back in 2008, who was reportedly dragged into the river and drowned. Adding fuel to the fire is the popular theory that these fish feast on the remains of funeral pyres. For anglers looking to catch one, don’t look for headshaking and jumps – goonch catfish instead use their weight and the river current to keep themselves from coming up to the surface.
Golden Mahseer – Indian Himalayas
What better adventure than a trip to the base of the largest mountains in the world in search of gold? There’s just something special about gold-colored fish, and the golden mahseer is no exception. This particular species of mahseer thrives near the Indian Himalayas of all places, specifically Ramganga River. This fish can reach 9 feet in length and weigh over 155 pounds, but such large specimens are rare these days. Be sure to use heavy tackle as they are notoriously tough fighters: after all, they didn’t get their “aquatic tiger of the Asian sub-continent” nickname for nothing.